And while the almighty powers-at-large rake in the dough for your great "performance", you're often left feeling disdained, humiliated, and overly annoyed, and there's just nothing you can do about it.
"I JUST WANT TO TEACH. I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS DUMB S**T!"
Like any business, ESL training centers are profit driven, which means that employers, herein referred as the POWERS-AT-LARGE, will not only generate a number of events and often times ridiculous marketing strategies that teachers are required to participate in, but may also be unwilling to enforce certain rules on campus in regards to Chinese parents and grandparents that like to overly pamper their children to the point that it affects your class. Let's breakdown a few scenarios:
DEMO CLASSES / "CIRCUS SHOW"
For one, the powers-at-large will tell you that demo classes must be entertaining, which is code for: "Use more energy, put on more smiles, keep the students active, and involve the parents. Oh yeah, sing, dance, do back flips, and pull a rabbit out of you’re a** if you must to let them sign up".
Ok, hey, it's cool. You knew beforehand what demo classes required when signing the contract. But did you know that you may need to perform demo classes 2-4x a week? Or how about the fact that some parents will whip out their phone to record your demo, and even though you've told your colleagues to politely tell parents that recording isn't allowed, they're too afraid to confront them due to the fear of losing a potential client? And what about English training centers in shopping centers, for instance, that may force you to do your demo classes in a room decked out with a large see-through window so that everybody walking pass can sneak a peek?
Yep, these are actual situations that I and thousands of other ESL teachers in China have had, and still have, to face. It was all fun and games at 25, but after 5+ years in the ESL game, "I'm too old for this s**t"!
MARKETING ACTIVITIES / "YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT!?"
"By the way, we're going to starting holding birthday parties on our campus during the last weekend of every month (which is also your day off). The children can invite their friends (potential recruits) and we'll provide the cake and entertainment. So, [Your Name Here], you'll be the host. Just sing, dance, and play some games with them for 1 hour".
"Are you f**king kidding? I didn't sign up for this s**t", is what you'd probably think, and well, my thoughts exactly. Sometimes, English training centers in China will require you to undergo the most preposterous marketing activities in order to promote their brand. And the worst part is that it may have nothing to do with teaching at all—you're just needed as the "foreign face". Here's another:
"We've just partnered with a local elementary school. They want an instructor from our program to teach a P.E. class once every week. So, [Your Name Here], you'll go there on Wednesday afternoons. Just do some simple exercises, play some games, and make sure the children are happy."
Heard enough? How about one more:
"Our summer camp is fast approaching, so we'll need ALL teachers to head over to the nearby mall and hand out flyers in front of the doorway".
Dance puppet, dance!
"PARENTS JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND"
Not only are you put on display, but your entire teaching is thrown off course. The first time is enough, after that, parents need to stay out or choose another program. Right?
Thus, it's not unusual to look up and find some parent(s) watching your ENTIRE class from your door window. And I mean the ENTIRE CLASS. It’s as though they must make sure that their baby is taking care of at all times, even if there are three adults in the class presiding over him or her.
What's more, I've even had parents get past the security doors to meet us at the restroom during breaks. I guess helping their child use the toilet and wash his or her hands was just something they absolutely couldn't live without.
Do the powers-at-large help to enforce the rules so that you're not constantly bombarded by parents and put on display? They'll try if you ask, but it almost never works because accommodating parents is far more important that your sanity.
"IT'S YOUR JOB"
"A nearby Taekwondo academy won a local competition and asked us to host one of their upcoming celebrations for 1 hour at their dojo. So, [Your Name Here], you'll host the event on Saturday afternoon since you're finished with your classes in the morning".
For God's sake, is this really apart of your job? Does showing up as the tap-dancing foreign face to host an event for another organization truly cover your duties as a teacher per your contract? My guess is that you'd probably say no. A HELL NO as a matter of fact.
On the other hand, the powers-at-large will surely argue that it is; after all, they already planned it without even consulting you. They'll claim that it's a marketing activity and is within your working hours, so "it's your job and you must do it".
What are you to do in this situation? How could you protect yourself?
"IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT, WHY DON'T YOU JUST QUIT?"
Nevertheless, after 6 years of teaching abroad at English training centers in China, I've come up with a few examples of ways you can steer these issues towards your favor:
Well, there you have it folks; just a small notion of the frustrations you may one day face at English training centers in China, and each scenario examined is the whole truth and nothing but it.